Canon G12 Review

Canon G12 Review

When we unveiled the Canon PowerShot S95 a month ago, we sorely missed its bigger sister, the G12 – here it is now. With better image sensor, less noise, higher resolution video, faster continuous shooting and new Hybrid Image Stabilizer, which works also in macro position particularly effectively.

Short evaluation


  • Pivoting and folding display
  • Very good image quality with excellent noise behaviour
  • Range of functions at professional level
  • Excellent ergonomics (but somewhat spongy trigger)


  • New HDR function can only be used with a tripod
  • No bracketing of exposure or white balance
  • Video function not up to date (no AF, no Full HD)
  • Slightly slower autofocus and low continuous shooting speed

In Canon’s PowerShot G series, the “G” stands for “Genius”. And so the current G12 is preparing to be an “ingenious” compact camera. In addition, Canon has given it some outstanding features, such as a very fast lens and an image sensor that is unusually large in this camera class. However, the predecessor model already had all this to offer.

The equipment list including the innovations of the PowerShot G12 is very long. For example the optical zoom finder, which even has a diopter correction. The CCD image sensor (1/1.7″) has a resolution of 10.1 megapixels, just like the PowerShot G11, but has been improved in its own way. This includes not only the video function, which now records 1,280 x 720 pixels at 24 fps, but above all the image quality. Together with the signal processor Digic 4 an even better picture quality and noise freedom is to be achieved, christened by Canon HS-System. The ISO sensitivity can be adjusted conveniently in third steps via a special rotary knob on the camera, but there is also a largely configurable automatic function. If the resolution is reduced to 2.5 megapixels, a maximum of ISO 12,800 is possible. The continuous shooting speed was also significantly increased to 4.2 fps. The high sensitivity and noiselessness should save the user from using a tripod or flash in many situations. If the latter is necessary, one is not only dependent on the integrated flash unit, but can also access all EOS system flash units via the system flash shoe.

For high-contrast situations, Canon has incorporated an HDR function that combines three photos taken in quick succession with different exposures into a single, more dynamic range photo. The i-Contrast function for brightening shadows can be combined with both normal and HDR images. There was also an “update” for the lens. Although the focal length range of 28-140 mm (KB) at a speed of F2.8 (W) to F4.5 (T) has remained identical, the image stabilizer has been replaced with the new hybrid stabilizer introduced with the Canon EF 100 mm 2.8 macro IS USM and also used in the PowerShot S95. It can compensate not only for the usual blur, but also for lateral shifts, such as occur mainly in macro photography. Thus, image stabilization remains effective even at the close-up limit of 1 cm (at the objective front lens).

What remains is the 2.8″ (3 cm) folding and swivelling screen with 461,000 pixels resolution. If you only want to take pictures with an optical viewfinder, you can simply fold the screen upside down against the camera – this also protects it from mechanical damage. New, however, is the front dial. This makes operation even more convenient, especially with semi-automatic or manual exposure, as the rear multifunction selector with rotary knob has remained. The setting options can largely be individualised by the user, e.g. aperture in front, exposure time in the rear. Of course, the RAW format as an alternative to JPEG should not be missing. Stored on an SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card. In addition, the PowerShot G12 is Eye-Fi compatible and can even control the WLAN SD card via the menu.

The G12 can also take excellent photos automatically, not only with 28 scene modes, but also with an automatic function that can even set the right one by analyzing the live image at lightning speed. Faces are also recognized. The autofocus is able to follow faces or other subject details in the image and keep them in focus at all times. Further recording aids are the brightness and RGB live histogram as well as the electronic spirit level, the camera orientation (portrait or landscape format) is also stored in the image. During the recording, not only the native aspect ratio of 4:3 is available, but also 3:2, 16:9, 4:5 and 1:1 with corresponding loss of resolution and angle of view.

The miniature effect, which can be activated for both photos and videos and apparently transforms the motif into a model landscape (such as in Telekom advertising), is an invitation to play. In video mode, time-lapse shots with a 5, 10 or 20-fold time-lapse effect can also be set. Playback can take place not only on the camera screen, but also in HDTV quality via the HDMI socket. Due to the CEC compatibility, the camera can even be controlled from the TV remote control. The range of accessories includes, for example, an underwater housing (WP-DC34 ) for a diving depth of up to 40 m or an adapter for 58 mm optical filters. The Canon PowerShot G12 is available in stores since October 2010 at a price of 550 EUR.



Ergonomics and workmanship

It takes some goodwill to call the PowerShot G12 a compact camera. The G12 is so massive that it barely fits into the coat pocket. It is particularly helpful that the lens disappears deep inside the camera when it is switched off. However, the G12 is clearly too big for a trouser pocket, and with a weight of around 400 grams, the camera is also not a lightweight. On the other hand, the case not only looks opulent, but also robust. Canon has mounted high-quality plastic shells on a metal chassis, so that the camera can be used for more than an occasional snapshot without batting an eyelid. But the lush case also has its advantages: It offers enough space for dedicated buttons and switches.

And the G12 has some of these. At the top left of the housing, for example, there is a somewhat old-fashioned-looking selector wheel for convenient control of exposure compensation. There is also a separate dial for setting the ISO sensitivity. It sits under the mode dial, on which Canon has at least accommodated the ten most important basic functions. This makes the PowerShot G12 much easier to configure than most other compact cameras. Especially because Canon has now given the G12 a front adjustment wheel again – this was last done with the G6 in 2004. With this “finger wheel” you can adjust shutter speed or aperture just as comfortably as with a SLR camera. Even the Canon-typical “steering wheel” on the back of the camera is not missing, and the engineers have also found room for a button for storing measured values. The controls on the back should be a bit bigger and react more directly. The shutter release button and the zoom lever also look a little spongy. The G12 lacks a dedicated “shutter release” for video recordings, by the way, so the camera first has to be switched to video mode at the mode dial, which is a bit cumbersome for filming.

Even though the most important parameters of the G12 can be easily set with the many buttons and dials – for a more in-depth configuration an excursion into the menu is necessary. Canon has divided the many setting options here into only two groups (registers). This results in quite long lists that want to be scrolled through first. Fortunately, you can store frequently used menu items in an individual “My Menu”, where they can be selected very quickly. In addition to the main menu, the G12 also offers a Quick Menu, which can be used to change the most important parameters quickly and easily, depending on the recording mode selected. But that’s not all, the G12 can be further individualized. It stores any two setting sets, which can then be conveniently called up via the program selector wheel. There is also a speed dial key that can be assigned to almost any function.


Thanks to the slightly bulky case, the PowerShot G12 fits very well in the hand and can also be held securely with one hand. There is also enough room for a monitor with a proper diagonal of 2.8 inches. As with its predecessor, this monitor can be rotated and swivelled, so the viewfinder image always stays in view in practically any shooting situation. Canon hasn’t changed the resolution of the display: it’s still sufficient, but not quite up to date 461,000 pixels. To save your honor, the display is very bright and rich in contrast. In this case, the optical viewfinder, which is also available, will rarely be used, especially as it only shows about three quarters of the actual image detail and also shows a severe parallax error in the close-up range. Canon has placed the tripod thread made of solid stainless steel somewhat unfavorably: It does not sit in the optical axis and is also so close to the card and battery compartment that it cannot be opened when the quick-release plate is attached.


As befits a professional or “smart” camera, the G12 lacks practically nothing. The level of equipment is quite similar to that of a middle-class DSLR. If desired, the G12 can take care of aperture and exposure time fully automatically, selecting one of its more than 28 motif programs. It also offers semi-automatic exposure control, focus and exposure can also be controlled manually. If the distance is set manually, the G12 will display a focus magnifier, which is likely to magnify a little more. The “Focus Bracket” function is clever: the G12 takes two more photographs in addition to the manually focused image, placing the focus point once in front of and once behind the set one. The G12 also has a completely new HDR function on board. She takes three differently exposed photos, which she then combines into a perfectly drawn picture. Unlike Sony or Pentax, however, this function on the G12 requires the use of a tripod – the camera electronics cannot compensate for any offset between shots. To cope with high contrasts, there is also the “i-contrast” function – it also subsequently lifts the depths in an image or darkens the lights.


The flash functions of the G12 are extremely professional. As one of the few compact cameras, it has a flash shoe and, equipped with the appropriate system flash units, can even handle Canon’s advanced E-TTL flash control. Also the wireless control of corresponding “Speedlight”-flashes is possible with the G12, unfortunately not with the internal flash of the camera as master. As a rule, this internal light dispenser alone already performs well and can be configured in great detail. Even though it doesn’t seem so at first glance, Canon has also renovated the lens with its focal length range of 28-140 millimetres (related to 35mm). It features the same “hybrid stabiliser” that Canon recently introduced with the EF 100 mm 2.8 macro IS USM. It should allow a significant extension of the exposure time, especially for macro shots. Canon states that the optical image stabiliser allows up to four exposure levels longer exposure times. Another new feature on the G12 is an electronic spirit level, which shows whether the camera is held horizontally (along the longitudinal axis) on request – however, the spirit level does not indicate a deviation from the horizontal along the transverse axis (“pitch”).

In addition to these thoroughly professional features, the G12 also offers the less ambitious photographer important help. For example, facial recognition, which is almost obligatory today. By the way, the G12 can identify several faces in the image section, in which case the control buttons can be used to focus on the desired face from a group of people. The G12 even offers a “blink timer” to prevent a person with lowered eyelids from being admitted. Once the auto mode detects a face, the camera keeps it in focus even if it moves within the frame. Tracking autofocus works for any moving subject, but must first be activated manually. Of course, the photographer can also manually set the AF point to the desired position, for example to focus on a specific subject at the edge of the picture. As flexible as the autofocus of the G12 may be, it has one drawback: the focusing speed is not particularly high as is typical of the system (contrast AF). Particularly at long focal lengths, the camera takes more than half a second to focus – this is not exactly suitable for snapshots. However, the G12 counteracts this shortcoming with the rather clever “instant recording” function. If it is selected, there is no live image on the monitor, so you have to use the optical viewfinder. But the AF reacts noticeably faster, so “instant shooting” is definitely an alternative for fast scene modes.


When it comes to video, Canon has also improved the G12 over its predecessor. It now records in HD quality (1,280 x 720 pixels, 24 frames per second), the sound is now recorded in stereo. However, the G12 cannot track AF during video recording, but can zoom. There is also no possibility to connect an external microphone. But the G12 offers a real 3-way ND filter as a sweet, which can easily be switched on. This allows film and photo shots to be taken even in bright light with the aperture wide open. In playback mode, movies can be edited directly in the camera. But photos can also be rudimentarily edited directly in the G12, such as cropping or removing red-flashed eyes. It’s just a shame that the G12 doesn’t offer the possibility to develop RAW recordings on site.

Picture quality

Already with the G11 Canon had made a radical step compared to the predecessor models: Away from the sheer number of megapixels towards a balanced relationship between resolution and size of the individual sensor cell. With the current PowerShot G12, it has remained with this rather conservative design, its sensor resolves 10 megapixels at a size of 1/1.7 inches. According to Canon, the sensor has been further improved and, together with the Digic 4 signal processor, is now expected to deliver visibly better image quality than its predecessor.

The above-average zoom lens (28-140/2.8-4.5) delivers about 80 percent of the theoretically possible maximum resolution in the middle of the picture over a large focal length range – that’s quite a decent value. Unfortunately, the resolution at the edges of the images falls to below 60 percent in some cases. The image corners are not only softer than the center, but also visibly softer. In addition, the optics produce color fringes on hard contrast edges, especially at the wide angle edges of the image – these also reduce the impression of sharpness. It’s particularly welcome that Canon doesn’t try to compensate for the loss of detail by excessive sharpening and that the G12 is very discreet when sharpening. Sharpness artifacts are almost unknown to the camera, the artifact grade of our test laboratory is correspondingly good. Even JPEG files recorded with the standard settings can be neatly reworked on the PC and then sharpened for the respective purpose. The tonal value curve of the G12 is also far from any sensationalism: it runs almost linear to the dark grey, only darker tonal values are compressed somewhat, i.e. reproduced harder. And so the G12 also convinces in practice with detailed, unobtrusively prepared photos – as long as the sensitivity does not exceed ISO 400.

It is in the nature of the rather small sensor that the G12 cannot be a proven available light camera. However, Canon’s engineers have got the noise under control very well. Up to ISO 800 it is almost uncritical, the particularly annoying colour noise practically does not occur at all. The other side of the coin, however, is that noise suppression visibly irons out details from as low as ISO 400, while loss of detail becomes annoying from ISO 800 and restricts the usable maximum resolution. All the more reason to welcome the fact that the G12 also records in RAW format on request – and thus gives the photographer the opportunity to de-noise on the PC specifically related to the respective scene mode. The dynamic range of the G12 is without fault or blame. Up to ISO 200, it has very good light values of just under 9 (EV) and does not fall below 8 EV at any sensitivity setting (up to ISO 3,200). The output dynamics of the G12 are also significantly better than those of many other cameras, and the theoretical dynamic range of 256 brightness values is almost perfectly exploited by the G12.

Bottom line

Even good things can be improved – Canon shows this quite impressively with the current flagship of the PowerShot series, the G12. In particular, handling is easier than on the previous G models thanks to the new front adjustment wheel. With its folding and swivelling monitor as well as the dedicated adjustment wheels, the G12 offers outstanding ergonomics that are unmatched in this camera class. This, however, at the price of a quite voluminous case. There is little to criticize with the image quality, it is up to ISO 200 without error and blame, with higher sensitivities, however, the noise suppression limits the detail rendition increasingly. The G12 is excellently equipped and offers many expansion options through optional accessories. The video function is not quite up to date, automatic focusing, Full HD recording and connection of an external microphone are missing. The PowerShot G12 is recommended above all as an uncomplicated and powerful travel and reportage camera. But you have to dig deep into your pocket for what you want.

Fact sheet

Fact sheet
Manufacturer Canon
Model PowerShot G12
Price approx. 430 EUR
Sensor Resolution 10 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 3.648 x 2.736
(aspect ratio) (4:3)
Lens F2,8-4,5/28-140mm
Filter threads optional
Viewfinder optical
Diopter compensation -3 to +1 dpt.
LCD monitor 2,8″
Disbandment 461.000
rotatable yes
swivelling yes
as viewfinder yes
Video output Composite, HDMI
Program automation yes
Aperture priority yes
Aperture priority yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long-term exposure
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Children/Babies yes
Countryside yes
Macro yes
Sports/Action yes
more 23 scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, Centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Flash connection System flash shoe
Remote release yes
Interval shooting curtailed
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode
Size MOV
Codec H.264
Resolution (max.) 1.280 x 720
Frame rate (max.)
24 frames/s (720p)
30 frames/s (VGA)
automatic ISO 80-1.600
extended up to ISO 12.800 (with reduced resolution)
manually ISO 80-3.200
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Light bulb yes
Other Underwater, Lightning
Manual yes
Number of measuring fields 9 or 1 (position and size freely selectable)
AF auxiliary light white (LED)
Speed approx. 0.5-0.6 s
Languages Yes
more 21 languages
401 g
Zoom adjustment motorised via ring rocker
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Triggering during storage possible. yes
Battery life approx. 370 pictures according to CIPA
– = “not applicable” or “not available”

Short evaluation


  • Pivoting and folding display
  • Very good image quality with excellent noise behaviour
  • Range of functions at professional level
  • Excellent ergonomics (but somewhat spongy trigger)


  • New HDR function can only be used with a tripod
  • No bracketing of exposure or white balance
  • Video function not up to date (no AF, no Full HD)
  • Slightly slower autofocus and low continuous shooting speed

Canon PowerShot G12 Datasheet


Sensor CCD sensor 1/1.7″ 7.6 x 5.7 mm (crop factor 4.6
)10.0 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 2,1 µm
Photo resolution
3.648 x 2.736 pixels (4:3)
2.816 x 2.112 pixels (4:3)
2.272 x 1.704 pixels (4:3)
1.600 x 1.200 pixels (4:3)
640 x 480 pixels (4:3)
Picture formats JPG, RAW
Colour depth k. A.
Metadata Exif (version 2.2), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 24 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 30 p
320 x 240 (4:3) 30 p
Maximum recording time 60 min
Video format
MOV (Codec H.264)
Audio format (video) WAV


Focal length 28 to 140 mm (35mm equivalent
)5x ZoomDigital zoom
Apertures F2.8 (wide-angle
)F4.5 (telephoto)
Autofocus yes
Autofocus Functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light
Filter threads 58 mm

Viewfinder and Monitor

Viewfinder Optical viewfinder
Monitor 2.8″ TFT LCD monitor with 461,000 pixels
Video viewfinder Diopter compensation


Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 15 s (automatic)
Exposure control Program automatic, Aperture automatic, Time automatic, Manual
Bracketing function HDR function
Exposure compensation -2.0 to +2.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 80 to ISO 3,200 (manual)
Remote access non-existent
Scene modes Fireworks, high sensitivity, indoor shooting, children, foliage, night scene, portrait, sports/action, beach/snow, underwater, fully automatic, 0 additional motif programs
Picture effects “My colors” function with a total of 9 settings
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sun, Flash, Underwater, Fluorescent lamp with 2 presets, Incandescent lamp, Manual
Continuous shooting 4.2 frames/s at highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer at intervals of 2 s, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Shooting functions Live histogram


Flash built-in flash shoe
: Canon, standard center contact
Flash range 0.5 to 7.0 m at wide-angle0
.5 to 4.0 m at telephoto flash range
at ISO auto
Flash functions Auto, Fill Flash, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Flash On Second Shutter Curtain, Red-Eye Reduction


Image stabilizer optical image stabilizer
Power supply Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Canon NB-7L (Lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.4 V)
Playback Functions Red eye retouching, playback histogram, image index
Voice memo Voice memo (WAV format)
Face recognition Face recognition
Picture parameters Contrast, Noise Reduction
Special functions Orientation sensor
Ports Data interfaces: USB USB Type
: USB 2.0 High Speed Video Output
: yes (HDMI Output Micro (Type D))
Supported direct printing methods Canon Direct Print, PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″
Features and Miscellaneous DIGIC-IV Signal Processor Dual
Anti-Noise SystemISO
6.400 and 12.800 at 2.5 Megapixels ResolutionSAPS-Intelligent
Scene Analysis TechnologyFace
Detection AFiContrastSelf-timerwith Face Detection AF mode
switchable (single-frame focusing, focus tracking,Face Detection)
Noise Reduction in Long ExposuresPlayback Zoom
(2 to 10x)
Automatic Image AlignmentMy-Camera Mode
for Personalizable Welcome Screens and Camera Tone User-Defined
SettingID PhotoPrint Function
for Direct Printing of Portraits/Passport Photos with 28 Different Picture Size TemplatesMovie-Print function for direct printing of individual images from a video sequenceEnergy-saving switchingAutomaticfocus
bracketingPTP image transmission protocolCustom timer
with adjustable lead time from 0 to 30 s and adjustable number of trips from 1 to 10 Image optical
image stabilizerIntegrated
ND neutral density filter

Size and weight

Weight 400 g (ready for operation)
Dimensions W x H x D 112 x 76 x 48 mm


included accessories Canon HTC-100 Audio / Video CableCanon
NB-7L Special Battery ChargerUSB Connection CableHarness StrapCamera Software
optional accessory Canon ACK-DC50 Power Supply UnitCanon
NB-7L Special BatteryCard with Removable Memory CardCamera Bag
USB 2.0 High Speed

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